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What’s Love Got to Do with a Lovely Rom-Com?: TIFF Review

Photo courtesy of TIFF
Photo courtesy of TIFF

You don’t see a lot of sincere, grinning romantic comedies at high-profile film festivals - normally the slate is reserved for more high-brow affairs. But that’s not the case with What’s Love Got to Do With It?, a creative, funny and sincere movie that’s going to become an instant genre classic.

The story is a cross-cultural festival that moves deftly between London and Pakistan, looking at what goes into a healthy, successful modern marriage. Smart direction and a playful cast make the movie lots of fun.

Lily James (Downton Abbey, Cinderella) and Shazad Latif make for outstanding leads as childhood neighbours and lifelong friends Zoe and Kazim - she’s a documentarian, and when Kazim decides to let his parents choose his wife as an arranged marriage, he also agrees to let Zoe film his journey to break the stigma and show all sides of what arranged (er, “assisted”) marriages look like in the 21st century.

Screenwriter Jemima Khan has written a fresh, authentic and ingenious script that really makes What’s Love shine. One trope that’s difficult to evade is keeping the audience guessing in romance is who will eventually end up with whom. All is happy in the end, but in a delightfully surprising way.

James and Latif have great chemistry together as friends and conflicted lovers, though everyone in the cast is equally great. Oscar winner Emma Thompson and Bollywood star Shabana Azmi are comedic standouts as friends in their own right and respective mothers to Zoe and Kazim.

Director Shekhar Kapur (best known for the Elizabeth movies starring Cate Blanchett) shows incredible versatility, using his skill in action and history movies into now directing a truly heartfelt and sweet romance. Despite the different categories, his movies have been sweet and funny all along - those qualities are just now in the forefront.

What really gives the film a special voice is its fair look into the pros and cons of modern romance in both Western and Eastern traditions. Is one actually better than the other one? There’s likely something to learn from both.

The moral message is best summed up by Zoe in the film’s best line, as she introduces the movie-within-a-movie to the premiere audience: "Between the extremes of passion and pragmatism, maybe there’s a pathway to happily ever after.”

Sadly, most people won’t see the movie until Valentine’s Day 2023 when it releases in theatres to the public. But get excited for it: seeing true love in transcendent, modern ways while making the audience roll with laughter is exactly what love has to do with it.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

8 out of 10

PG, 1hr 48mins. Comedy Romance.

Directed by Shekhar Kapur.

Starring Lily James, Shazad Latif, Emma Thompson, Sajal Aly and Shabana Azmi.

Plays TIFF again on Sept. 17 with tickets available here. Opens in most theatres in early 2023.